How do I think -- much less talk, write or teach -- about sustainability and higher education? The prospect's pretty daunting. Sustainability -- living in the present in ways which don't create predictable problems for the future -- is a huge topic. Just scratch the surface, and it quickly includes concerns with the environment, the economy, and society at large. (Pretty big topics, each one of those!) And higher education -- is there an arena more diverse? Where else in modern society do we see old and young, rich and poor, underskilled and overeducated, those who know exactly what their job is and those who very obviously make it up as they go along, all contributing to a single environment, the final goal of which is only broadly defined?
So, the subject of sustainability and higher education is an elephant we're going to have to eat one bite at a time. Some of the bites, we probably already know. Some we'll discover as we get further along (and more expert in elephant anatomy). Some look pretty tasty. Some will probably trigger the question: "You want me to eat WHAT?" But no matter how we look at it, the elephant exists. It's in the living room, whether we talk about it or not. If we don't eat it, it's going to start to stink. And what good is a big meal without some lively conversation, anyway?
G. Rendell is the pseudonym of a sustainability administrator at a large private research university, an adjunct faculty member, and a farmer. He's been active in the field of sustainability, directly and indirectly, for over 20 years.